The Masculinity of War

War has a history of masculinity. Post-traumatic stress disorder, family history, and the death of friends are things that must be forgotten if one hopes to be a soldier. In a soldier’s eyes these things were viewed as weaknesses and only recently have issues like these had the right to surface. As a result, Don Draper is forced to forget the death of his lieutenant and alter ego. By shutting out his psychological problems, Don Draper regains his masculinity. Thus, Don Draper can’t understand why his wife Betty can’t do the same.

Image credit: http://mivida2010.webs.com/Uncle-Sam-and-PTSD.jpg

“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as an anxiety disorder which stems from a particular incident evoking significant stress” (Bentley). PTSD has existed in some form throughout history, ever since man has waged war. It has taken many names:  nostalgia, shell shock, and war neurosis. There are several stages of PTSD, but the final stage of frustration and depression is the one that can be the most harming to a man’s masculinity. Not being able to control one’s own feelings is the ultimate loss of composure, especially considering that Don is undoubtedly the most composed character in the series.  Don Draper hints at his experience with PTSD when he says, “nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound.” Don’s wounded masculinity offers an insight into his yearning for extra-marital affairs and can we really blame him? But as Don Draper notes in the final episode of season one, “who knows why people do what they do?”

Links referenced: Bentley, Steve. "The VVA Veteran--A Short History of PTSD." The VVA Veteran--A Short History of PTSD. Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., Jan. 1991. Web. 24 Sept. 2012.
"Veterans and PTSD." MI VIDA: A Story of Faith Hope and Love. N.p., 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. 

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